Red-state Democrats worry impeachment may spin out of control

Senate Democrats representing red states are worried the House impeachment process may spin out of control and destroy any chance their party might have of winning back the majority next year.

These Democrats hope the House keeps its impeachment focus on the Ukraine controversy, and that Democrats act relatively quickly. If they do not, the red-state Democrats warn President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Coronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Ohio governor tests negative in second coronavirus test MORE could turn the tables on them.

“It’s really incumbent on the House to really be laser-focused. The president is a master of pivoting and deflecting and I think it’s really important to stay focused,” said Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - At loggerheads, Congress, White House to let jobless payout lapse Overnight Defense: Senate poised to pass defense bill with requirement to change Confederate base names | Key senator backs Germany drawdown | Space Force chooses 'semper supra' as motto Democrats call for expedited hearing for Trump's public lands nominee MORE (D-Mont.), who narrowly won reelection in a Republican-leaning state in 2018.

ADVERTISEMENT

Tester said the impeachment inquiry should be focused on Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, where he pressed for an investigation of former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden says his faith is 'bedrock foundation of my life' after Trump claim Biden clarifies comments comparing African American and Latino communities Kanye West may have missed deadline to get on Wisconsin ballot by minutes: report MORE.

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinHillicon Valley: Facebook removes Trump post | TikTok gets competitor | Lawmakers raise grid safety concerns OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court cancels shutdown of Dakota Access Pipeline | US could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change, study finds | Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic Officials warn of increasing cyber threats to critical infrastructure during pandemic MORE (D), who represents Trump-friendly West Virginia, also warned of Democrats focusing on old issues.

“I think it’s much better if it’s going to be focused because there’s a whole load of hay out there that they’ve been talking about for so long,” he said.

Like Tester, he said the effort should be focused on Trump’s attempts to push Zelensky to investigate Biden.

“I just think anytime a foreign entity is involved, it needs to be investigated,” Manchin said.

Manchin isn’t sure his warnings will be heeded, particularly since many liberal Democrats favor a broader investigation that would pull in efforts related to former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE’s investigation, along with complaints that Trump has used his office to benefit his businesses.

At the same time, Democratic leaders in both chambers appear to want to keep the focus on Ukraine, particularly with polls showing a growing number of voters back impeachment.

One Democratic senator who requested anonymity to discuss the dynamics within the Democratic caucus said Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame Senate Democrats push to include free phone calls for incarcerated people in next relief package Trump backs plan to give airlines another billion in aid MORE (D-N.Y.) has told his colleagues that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiCoronavirus talks on life support as parties dig in, pass blame On The Money: Pessimism grows as coronavirus talks go down to the wire | Jobs report poised to light fire under COVID-19 talks | Tax preparers warn unemployment recipients could owe IRS Top Democrats say postmaster confirmed changes to mail service amid delays MORE (D-Calif.) wants to keep the scope of the impeachment inquiry as narrow as possible.

The senator, who favors a broader scope, said that “people are worried” about potential political fallout within the Democratic caucus.

“The stakes go up for both sides at this point,” the source added.

Pelosi told reporters Thursday that the House inquiry will focus on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, at least initially. She said there is a "consensus in our caucus” that Ukraine “is the focus of the moment because this is the charge,” referring to the whistleblower complaint against Trump. Even so, the six other House committees will continue to examine various allegations of presidential misconduct.

Democrats feel they have momentum on their side, and their confidence has been bolstered by expressions of concern over Trump’s conduct from former members of his administration and fellow Republican officeholders.

The president’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, expressed his misgivings Sunday when he told ABC’s “This Week” that Trump’s phone call with Zelensky left him “deeply disturbed.”

A new CNN poll shows that 47 percent of Americans surveyed now back impeaching the president, up from 41 percent in May as more Republicans and independents now say they support the prospect.

A CBS News poll published Sunday showed that 55 percent of respondents now support the impeachment inquiry into Trump and that independents are evenly split, 49 percent in favor and 51 percent opposed.

Republicans warn Democrats risk a political backlash similar to what they felt in 1998 during the GOP-led impeachment of President Clinton. Democrats picked up congressional seats in that year’s midterm election.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is up for reelection next year in a pro-Trump state, said he doesn’t want impeachment to drag on and expressed concern it could drown out negotiations on a new trade deal known as the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement (USMCA) and a multiyear highway authorization bill.

“Obviously we need to get to the bottom of all this quickly,” he said. “I want it to come to a head as quickly as possible. I think the American people deserve it to be resolved one way or another.”

Jones said the pending USMCA, which is now in jeopardy because of the brewing impeachment fight, is “a good thing for the state of Alabama.”

“I think there’s a lot of things that may get lost in the shuffle of this,” he said. “You obviously worry that you’ll get consumed but at the same time the Senate has not had a good track record this year legislating.”

Yet Jones, running as a Democrat in a state that Trump won by nearly 30 points in 2016, says that the gravity of the allegations against Trump are bigger than politics.

“Don’t ask me whether or not this is going to affect my election in 2020. Don’t ask me if it’s going to affect Joe Biden or Donald Trump,” he said on the Senate floor Thursday. “Ask me what is going to happen to the Constitution.” 

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Yates spars with GOP at testy hearing Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks MORE (D-Calif.), who sat as a juror in the Senate’s trial of Clinton in 1999, also said the process “shouldn’t drag on for too long.”

“It’s September. It ought to take a couple months and that ought to be it,” she said.